I have to be honest, I don’t always walk my talk.
I started this week planning to cancel a telephone appointment with my supervisor and mentor. “I have so much on”, I told her (writing this blog, a lecture at the end of week needs finishing off, etc, etc). I am also desperately aware that my mentor is terminally ill. I don’t want to waste her time or energy!
In her own gentle way, Cindy persuades me that we should talk anyway. I am not wasting her time or energy she tells me and we decide to do a meditation together over the phone. I can’t articulate the sense of togetherness that this created for me, despite the geographical distance between us and the presence of my iPhone (the holder of my “to do list”). Self-care is the topic of our conversations and her advice for this blog is “write it for yourself…, people will take from it what they need”. So with those words in mind, here goes.
A conversation with myself …………
It is early morning, I am unwell and feel nauseous as I prepare for a walk with my dog. I have a sense that something light to eat would be good, an egg perhaps, lightly scrambled?
“But you will need some bread surely?” my mind says, “What if you are hungry on your walk?”
“You will want to come back early and be disappointed that the walk was spoiled..”
“But then again eggs are protein, better known for satisfying an appetite, less likely to lead to peaks and troughs in blood sugar.”
And on and on this narrative continues. With this narrative playing in the background, I recall being in my granny’s house in Ireland. She would give me an “egg in a cup” when I was feeling unwell. This would be cooked on the old black range cooker in a small and hot kitchen, with a tiny knob of butter.
“BUTTER?, twice the calories of low fat spread” my mind says ..”I am only warning you!”
I decide to allow my body to choose and have a few mouthfuls of egg, drizzled lightly with some butter and no bread. I leave the table, some food is uneaten, my stomach is not full but strangely, my body and heart feel nourished. To some extent my mind feels more relaxed too, although there is the faint cry of “it’s not enough” lingering in the background.
In my professional role as a clinical psychologist, I often meet with people who have had or are considering bariatric surgery. People often tell me that they lack willpower whilst simultaneously outlining hundreds of extreme diets undertaken, jaws wired, and boot camps attended. Over the years, I have observed that these diets and regimes give a temporary sense of certainty, (“I know what I can and can’t eat”, people say) but they fail to nurture our inner wisdom of how to take care of ourselves. They also create the fear of scarcity that Cuca Azinovic spoke of in her last post.
Earlier I mentioned my beloved dog. He was supposed to help the family keep fit with wonderful long luxurious walks through the country side. Long walks, however, are not his thing. He prefers to smell every leaf, animal, person and random object and to stop regularly to watch the world go by. Very few steps are registered on my iPhone health tracker on a typical walk. However, through him I am learning the gift of being in the present, seeing everything as new and undiscovered and interesting. This really does feel nourishing!
On one of our recent walks, I was able to tune into the experience of stomach hunger; on this occasion a gentle bubbling in the middle of my abdomen, together with some gentle rhythmic contractions. I am acutely aware that I have never experienced the starvation that many people throughout the word have to endure on a regular basis. But I am also aware that, having been on many diets in my childhood and adolescence, my mind can turn this experience into something it is not. On this day, stomach hunger was an experience that I could be with and bring space to, simply by breathing. The panic of having nothing to eat, that us in the West never really experience anyway, was abated.
As I finish this post, I wonder can you too notice mind hunger and the way it can trip us up? Are there any parts of your day that can help cultivate your inner wisdom of what is truly good for you?
Jacqueline Doyle, UK